Category Archives: Joe Santa Maria

Spoonman – A Saxophone Odyssey

I’ve always wondered what badass electric guitar solos would sound like on saxohpone… and if it was possible. So I decided to try the Kim Thayil solo on Spoonman. It took me a few hours today to make a cryptic chart of the solo and a few more to practice. I wound up with a pretty messy sketch, but I’ll work on a better looking transcription. The timing of the solo is going to be crazy to write down… It was way easier to write down some of the important phrases and just play with it until I could get the timing. Nowhere to breathe either! It makes me wish I played guitar, but my favorite lick at the end sounds great on alto.

The Solo mostly consists of super fast rips on the D minor pentatonic. There are some places though where he does chromatic cells from the Blues Scale. At the end, for my favorite phrase, he shifts into the 5th mode of Melodic Minor (Mixolydian or dominant b13).

So with that here goes nothing! Check out the video! Continue reading

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Julia – Song Analysis

Arguably the most influential pop songwriters in recent history, the Beatles satisfy listeners all across the world with their messages of free love and free imagination… I dare say they are Super Hippies. Their songwriting contains a beautiful mix of characters and some very original ideas. One of my personal favorites is “Julia” from The White Album. It showcases two of their major compositional strengths: voice leading and advanced harmony. I’m going to go ahead and jump into an analysis of the tune. I did an arrangement for my brass band a few months ago and I really fell in love with some of the little tricks in this composition. Check out last week’s blog on Modal Interchange if you’d like also. Learning a little about that topic will help to explain its use in this song.


The chord progression is a very sophisticated reorganization of typical sounds. It maintains the key of D Major throughout and highlights use of the Tonic (I), Mediant (iii), Submediant (vi), and Dominant (V) chords for it’s most common progression. The intro and several interludes use these chords alone: Continue reading

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Modes and Modal Interchange

Here is a quick explanation of Modal Interchange. It is a technique that is used commonly in all genres of compositon. It is very easy to identify and study in western pop and Jazz compositions. Next week I will be posting an analysis of the Beatles song “Julia” and it will focus on the use of Modal Interchange to color melodies and create alternative harmonies. Continue reading

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Music and Natural Space

Hey everyone, happy holidays. This week I wanted to revisit something I wrote for Indaba when I was still an Intern. This blog describes a rather famous piece by Max Neuhaus. Enjoy! I hope his project is as inspiring to you all as it is to me. Someday I’m going to find a way to get involved in this kind of stuff.

Music and Natural Space

Max Neuhaus was one of the original innovators of Electronic Music. Beginning his career as a solo percussionist he developed an obsession with instrumental timbre. Chasing his love of sound, he created many of his own instruments in the 1960s using analogue equipment. Continue reading

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Joys of Listening

Joys of Listening

For many, days go by without a conscious thought about listening. Musicians are in the minority as professionals who have to cultivate an understanding of their ears and listening skills. The relationship between what you hear to what you imagine is pretty heavy.

Using sound for pleasure is possible because of the rich visual imagery that it creates. We take sounds inward and our minds eye creates visions to support them. It can be a very powerful phenomenon. Aside from music, daily sounds influence our thought process as humans automatically. Our hearing is a defense, an aid in communication, and ultimately when music comes into the picture, a luxury. Continue reading

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